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Adapted Softball: Thunderbolts head back to state softball tournament

South Washington County senior infielder Bryce Smith and pitcher Katie Sexton chase down the ball in a game Wednesday against visiting Buffalo Adapted. The Thunderbolts scored a 18-5 win to qualify for the state adapted softball tournament next week in Coon Rapids. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Tyler Tinucci of the Thunderbolts rounds third and heads for home to score a run for South Washington County in the team's 18-5 victory Wednesday. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 4
Nathan Ponder of the Thunderbolts races from second to third in the third inning. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Katie Sexton throws a strike for the South Washington County Thunderbolts in a section win Wednesay at Woodbury High School. John Molene / RiverTown Multimedia 4 / 4

It's back to state for the South Washington County Thunderbolts.

The Thunderbolts qualified with a fairly easy 18-5 section win over the visiting Buffalo/Monticello/STMA Coyotes Adapted in a game played at Woodbury High School Wednesday.

The adapted softball state tournament will be held at Coon Rapids High School, June 1 and 2.

It's the 18th appearance at state in the Cognitive Impaired Division (CI) for the Thunderbolts. Two years ago the Thunderbolts won the consolation championship. But last year's team dropped its first two games and was eliminated.

South Washington County will take a 9-2 record into this year's tournament.

It was a bit of a rough closing stretch for the Thunderbolts. The team romped through the first part of the regular season, going 6-0 to start the spring including wins of 15-0, 14-4, 15-1, 17-4 and 15-0. But the Thunderbolts dropped two of their last four games to finish second in the CI South Division.

All that was forgotten Wednesday as the Thunderbolts scored early and often in a game shortened because of the 10-run rule.

The late-season slump prompted some lineup changes for the Thunderbolts. The team brought up Katie Sexton to pitch from the junior varsity, moved senior Ryan Schmidt from outfield to third base to catcher.

"I don't think we've played our best softball," Said Thunderbolts coach John Culbertson. "I really don't see that. I think the challenge of now going to state and having to play probably Park Center, the challenge is ahead of us and the kids know what they have to do. I'm just looking forward to seeing how far this senior group will take the rest of the team."

Wednesday's game was also the final regular-season game for five Thunderbolts, seniors Leah Huntley, Bryce Smith, Sydney Sexton, Schmidt and Nick Jones.